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Saturday, June 12, 2021
Florida's Andy Andrade returns a ball against Auburn on February 21. Andrade and the Gators face Illinois Monday with a spot in the national quarterfinals on the line.
Florida's Andy Andrade returns a ball against Auburn on February 21. Andrade and the Gators face Illinois Monday with a spot in the national quarterfinals on the line.

After kicking off the NCAA tournament with comfortable wins over South Alabama and USF, Florida men’s tennis travels to Lake Nona to take on the Fighting Illini in the Sweet Sixteen. 

Monday’s match is the first real postseason test for the top-seeded Gators. Florida has reached this stage in the competition each year since 2016, and head coach Bryan Shelton and co. have made consistent progress towards a national championship each successive year.

Florida reached the Elite Eight for the first time under Shelton in 2018. The next year, the Gators made the Final Four but bowed out to eventual champions Texas. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Florida finished 15-3 but had no opportunity to play for the elusive national title. 

The stage is set for the Gators to go further in 2021 than ever before under Shelton. 

To get there, they first have to down an impressive Illinois squad boasting a 23-2 record. The Fighting Illini have not lost since Feb. 21 and bring a 19-game winning streak into Monday’s match. 

Florida has won four consecutive matches against Illinois, including three head-to-head wins in the past two seasons. 

The Gators badly need to find consistency in doubles and will look to translate their dominance over from singles. Expect Shelton to field an identical singles lineup to the sixsome that beat USF in straight sets in the Round of 32, but don’t be surprised if his doubles pairings change once again. 

Seniors Duarte Vale and Johannes Ingildsen will likely remain partners on court one, coming off two strong performances in tournament play. The remaining tandems to face Illinois in doubles are uncertain.

Be sure to stream the match through the TennisOne app or check floridagators.com for live updates.

Contact Ryan Zehnder at rzehnder@ufl.edu and follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder

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